An anonymous lawmaker tells The New York Times that John Boehner is quietly telling members of the House that he would be willing to bring a debt ceiling increase to a vote even without a majority of Republicans supporting the move. Doing so would break an informal party rule —violations of which earlier this year nearly cost Boehner his position.
While the lawmaker who attended the meeting with Boehner isn't named, the Times did speak with Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. "Hurricane Sandy, the fiscal cliff, all of the big votes require reasonable Republicans and Democrats to come together in order to pass it and get it to the president’s desk," Fitzapatrick said, adding, “This will be no different."
Boehner has repeatedly asserted that he would not let the government default on its debts, which the Department of the Treasury has warned could happen in two weeks if the debt ceiling isn't increased. Should the ceiling not be raised, the government wouldn't have enough money on-hand to pay bills, putting the nation's credit at risk — a scenario generally understood to be nearly apocalyptic.
The need to raise that limit has been seen as an opportunity for the Republican Party to extract concessions from the president by some in the party. Last week, a leaked document listed a menu of core Republican priorities that were considered reasonable requests in exchange for such a vote. It's not clear if a vote to increase the debt ceiling without such conditions would lack the support of a majority of the party, but Boehner told those in the meeting that he'd bring the vote forward anyway.
That violates the so-called "Hastert Rule," a stipulation named for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. It established a policy that unless a majority of the majority party wanted to bring a bill forward for a vote, it wouldn't happen. Hastert on Thursday disavowed the rule, which could offer Boehner slightly more space for such a move. But some of the votes Fitzpatrick outlined, ones in which Boehner allowed a vote despite a majority of Republicans endorsing their passage, were seen as contributing to a number of Republican votes against his reelection to be Speaker. In March, he pledged to stick to the rule.
Benjy Sarlin of MSNBC offers a theory for why this news leaked now.
NYT quotes anonymous GOP Rep: Boehner said he'd break Hastert rule on debt limit. Olive branch to markets? http://t.co/LcLqmA8zft— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) October 3, 2013
On Wednesday, President Obama spoke with CNBC explicitly suggesting that there was cause for businesses to be nervous in the face of the looming possibility of defaulting on bills. On Thursday, The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped quickly in the morning, rebounding slightly around noon, as seen at right. (Graph via.)
Earlier this week, Boehner was able to head off a rumored "revolt" from the same group of Republican moderates who would presumably be called on to help pass a debt ceiling increase. At that point, he asked that they vote with him on a funding bill that included measures the moderates opposed and which assured they'd be killed in the Senate. "Trust me," he reportedly said on the House floor. The leaked report may be Boehner offering a similar message to Wall Street.